Pelham Local Economy is an Endangered Species

Unlike many Ontario communities where big-box retailers and multi-national corporations dominate the retail landscape, Pelham continues to function as a rare local economy. Decisions that impact local jobs, wages and the quality of life of our community are made in Pelham everyday. When Pelham residents spend their shopping dollars at local businesses 3-4 times the amount they spend stays in the local economy. A 2003 case study in Maine comparing the local spending of locally owned businesses compared to corporate chain stores supports this multiplier effect.

On average, the independent businesses studied spent 44.6 per cent of their revenue within the surrounding two counties. The four largest components of this local spending were the wages paid to local employees, goods and services purchased from other local businesses, profits earned by the local owners and taxes paid to government. In contrast, the two chains returned only 14.1 per cent of their revenue to the local economy, mostly in the form of payroll. It is important to note that the independent businesses also contributed to support local charitable projects at a rate that was 2-4 times higher than that of the chain stores.

It is no wonder that the general population is becoming increasingly disillusioned with the deficiencies of globalism and returning to a focus on localism. David Koren, in his "Economies for Life" article from the Fall 2002 issue of Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures, effectively describes the values that are propelling this renaissance. "They speak of real wealth as a sense of belonging, contribution, beauty, joy, relationship, and spiritual connection. They share their dreams of a world of locally rooted living economies that meet the material needs of all people everywhere, while providing meaning, building community, and connecting us to a place on the Earth."

Sure sounds a lot like the Pelham that I have always known and loved. Community connections- the Fonthill Bandshell, Farmer's Market, Veteran's Park, Canada Day celebrations, Fenwick Lions carnival, Pelham Art Show - our social fabric is rich and meaningful. A living local economy -the vast majority of our commercial base is comprised of small businesses - the economic sector that generates the largest share of the new jobs in Ontario each year. Sustainable, environmental practices -awareness is growing and there is commitment to achieve more.

As local citizens, we need to understand that we make choices everyday that can have a dramatic impact on our local community, economy and environment. Sustainability goes much further than simply promoting "Buy Local" it means accepting the challenge to also "Think Local". Our Pelham economy is indeed a rare species that we are privileged to have the opportunity to protect and invigorate.

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